FC Cincinnati headed to Red Bull Arena for the franchise’s MLS playoff debut, and they left with their first playoff win by the score of 2-1.
Things were contentious throughout a first half that saw both Matt Miazga and Nick Hagglund land in the referee’s book. Then, shortly after halftime, Lewis Morgan gave the home side the lead with a golazo in the aftermath of a set piece. However, with a never-say-die attitude, FCC pushed for an equalizer. It came via a Lucho Acosta penalty kick after Álvaro Barreal was brought down in the box. Then, when extra time looked inevitable, Sergio Santos squared for a Brandon Vazquez game-winner in the 86th minute.
In my view, the team’s defensive performance was just as much due to an inept RBNY attack as it was to the players’ performances, and the scores below reflect this. Much of what the team did to thwart that attack was collective effort, and is tough to reflect in individual player ratings. Offensively many of the players struggled to maintain possession and complete passes. Passing percentages were low across the board. However, a few moments of brilliance together with a collective desire to win duels and compete helped the team achieve the victory. I tried to give credit where credit was due, but I didn’t grade players up simply because of the team’s excellent accomplishment.
Check out Cincinnati Soccer Talk’s post-match report HERE for more details.
- Each player starts off with a 6 as a standard rating. Six signifies an “average performance” for the match.
- Players will receive additions or subtractions to their score based on individual moments and the overall team performance.
- We’ll look at multiple criteria and statistics from websites like FB Ref, Who Scored, and FOTMOB.
- All statistics used will be taken from fbref.com.
- We won’t use .5 increments in order to force more subjective opinions.
- A player may receive a N/A if they are subbed in/off before any quantifiable statistics are available.
Expected Goals (xG): FC Cincinnati – 2.2, RBNY – 1.2, per mlssoccer.com
Now onto the ratings:
Manager – Pat Noonan – 10
There were several decisions made by Coach Noonan in the club’s first-ever playoff match that could have gone either way. First, he elected to start Junior Moreno, as he has been for the past few matches, even though it appears as if Yuya Kubo has been out-performing him. Then, he decided to trust both Matt Miazga and Nick Hagglund by leaving them in the match even though both were carrying yellow cards. Finally, the biggest decision of the night was to pull off the red-hot Brenner in the 67th minute when his team was down a goal and searching for an equalizer.
Well, in his first playoff match at the helm it appears that he got all of those decisions right. Moreno put in a good performance, Kubo was a game-changer off the bench, and nobody got a second yellow. Most importantly, it was Brenner’s replacement, Sergio Santos who connected with Brandon Vazquez (the other primary candidate to be taken off instead of Brenner) for the game-winning goal.
GK – Roman Celentano – 6
Roman had 6 saves and earned a victory in his first-ever playoff start. He had to be alert for a couple of saves in the first half, but wasn’t called into action in any serious way until Lewis Morgan’s strike in the early 2nd.
Could he have kept that strike out? Morgan hit it really well and it rippled the side netting. However, he did strike the ball with his right foot from the right side and from a poor angle, and wasn’t able to put any texture on it. RBNY finished the match with just 0.4 PSxG, so if Celentano had the perfect angle and timed his dive correctly I think he could have made the save. That said, lots of keepers in MLS would have been beaten by that strike.
RWB – Alvas Powell – 5
Alvas Powell has not been the most valuable player on the team this year. However, the upgrade he has provided at his position has been absolutely invaluable. In this match he won 67% of his duels and both of his attempted tackles. He also contributed 9 pressures, which is a good number for a wingback.
So why the low(ish) rating? Powell continues to struggle on the offensive side of the ball. In his 44 touches, he completed just 9 of 18 passes and didn’t manage an accurate cross. Finally, he squandered a golden chance to provide a dangerous ball into the box in the 33rd minute when he was played in down the right side, where his indecision allowed the defense to recover and squelch out any danger before it could happen.
RCB – Nick Hagglund – 7
Many Foosers (note: that is my nickname for FC Cincinnati because “Garys” is stupid) struggled in possession against the RBNY high press, but Hagglund struggled more than most. He managed to complete only 55.6% of his passes, including going 0 for 5 with long balls. Defensively, he didn’t manage to get into a ground duel. Finally, his early yellow card for kicking the ball away after a foul was a silly way to put himself under pressure for the remainder of the match.
All of that being said, the Cincinnati Kid also won 5 of 9 aerial duels and a tackle, and was 3rd on the team with 15 ball recoveries.. Finally, he completed 2 passes into the final third and was credited with a key pass.
CB – Geoff Cameron – 6
Geoff Cameron may have done a lot correct in organizing and commanding the back line, but those kinds of things aren’t evident while watching on television so I can’t really grade based on them. Cameron was able to manage a very respectable 80% passing rate, including completing 6 of 6 long balls and earning a key pass.
Defensively, Cameron was more organizer and less participant. He wasn’t able to win a tackle and had only 4 pressures, though he did contribute 2 interceptions. His grade here suffers further for losing all 4 of his aerial duels and committing 2 fouls. However, he had the most pressures of the FCC CBs with 3, and managed 3 progressive passes.
LCB – Matt Miazga – 7
Miazga might have earned a higher score for being the team’s best player defensively, winning 11 of 12 aerial duels and both of his ground duels. He was also 2nd on the team with 17 recoveries.
However, his 57.1% pass rate was abysmal, and he managed only 3 pressures and 1 progressive pass. Finally, he turned his back on Lewis Morgan, failing to close down the dangerous winger as he took aim for RBNY’s lone goal.
LWB – Álvaro Barreal – 8
Barreal was another player that suffered from poor passing, clocking in at just 53%. However, his other contributions were excellent. Defensively, he won all 5 of his ground duels and logged a respectable 12 pressures. Of those pressures, the team won the ball back with 5 of them.
Offensively, his primary contribution was winning the penalty that got FCC on the board. He also had 2 total shot-creating actions and led the team in both carries (33) and progressive carries (5).
DCM – Obinna Nwobodo – 9 (Man of the Match)
There is a good argument for other players to receive man of the match, but Obi’s overall contribution on both sides of the ball won me over. Offensively, his alert pass started the play for the game-winning goal. Besides this, he also completed a respectable 71.4% of his passes and led the team with 6 progressive passes and 6 passes into the final third.
Defensively he was a monster, racking up 20 pressures, 6 tackles, and 19 recoveries… all top marks on the team. He also won 10 of 16 ground duels and all 3 of his aerial duels. One could certainly argue that, without Obi’s contribution, this match would have turned out differently.
DCM – Junior Moreno – 6
I’ve been a vocal proponent of sitting Junior Moreno in favor of Yuya Kubo for some time now. He had a fine match, but did nothing to convince me that I was wrong. At 80% passing, 2 shot-creating actions, and a key pass, he was pretty good going forward. He also managed 2 progressive passes.
However, it’s his mobility that has me the most worried. He managed only 7 pressures, which trails all non-CB players other than Brenner (we’ll get to him later). If he is relying on his positioning to be most affective, then he’ll need more than his 1 interception and 1 blocked pass to be a reliable contributor.
CAM – Luciano Acosta – 8
Lucho’s 69.4% passing was a bit low, but not atypical for the diminutive creator. However, his mere 4 progressive actions (3 passes, 1 carry) were. Despite not helping progress the ball as much as usual, once he was in the final third he was key. He led the team with 5 shot-creating actions and 4 key passes.
Acosta also had an outstanding 18 pressures and blocked 4 passes. He took relatively good care of the ball, only being dispossessed twice and logging just 1 mistouch. It was his quick thinking to draw a foul, then take the kick quickly that led to Barreal being fouled in the box. Then, of course, he stepped up in the most pressure-packed moment of the match to coolly deposit his spot kick and draw the team level at 1-1.
ST – Brenner – 4
Brenner was absolutely invisible in this match before being replaced in the 66th minute. He managed only 9 total touches. Defensively, he contributed just 6 pressures.
On the few occasions he had the ball he was pretty good. He completed 6 of 7 passes and contributed 3 progressive actions (2 passes, 1 carry). However, he failed to score with the one BIG chance he had, the header in the 54th minute.
ST – Brandon Vazquez – 8
Vazquez’s passing percentage (54.5%), progressive actions (2 carries), and mistouches (3) all point to a poor outing from the striker. He also won only 3 of 8 ground duels and 5 of 13 aerial duels. However, he was under constant physical pressure to battle for every 50/50 ball heaved his way by the defense, and received a team-high 6 progressive passes, and drew 3 fouls.
However, as has been typical, when he is struggling for meaningful possession he ups the work rate. He was able to contribute 10 pressures and put in 5 fouls – a number I like from a striker in a chippy game. Then, when it mattered most in the 86th minute, he made an excellent lung-busting run to finish the game-winner.
Yuya Kubo (67th minute) – 7
Kubo came on for Junior Moreno in what has become a standard change in the 2nd half of matches. It is impossible not to compare the two, acknowledging that Kubo had fresh legs playing against a more tired opponent.
What Kubo does that Moreno consistently struggles to do is progresses the ball. Yuya had the same number of progressive passes as Moreno (2), and also added 2 progressive carries. Finally, it was his incisive cross-field, defense-splitting pass that led to the foul on Acosta from which Barreal’s penalty was created.
Sergio Santos (67th minute) – 7
Santos is seemingly all effort, all the time. He was only on the pitch for 24 minutes but got into 7 ground duels and 6 aerial duels… more than most of the starters. Granted, he won only 3 of those (1 ground, 2 aerial). He also contributed 7 pressures… the same number as Moreno who played 66 minutes. Then, it was his excellent pace and power that led to him chasing down Obi’s through ball, followed by his perfectly weighted and textured pass, that led to Vazquez’s game-winner.
Ray Gaddis (90th+1 minute) – N/A
Ray provided some incredible play in the dying minutes of the match. His ability to get the ball to the corner and maintain bits of time-wasting possession helped massively in the 12 minutes of stoppage.
Rónald Matarrita (90th+1 minute) – N/A
Ian Murphy (90th +6) – N/A
Availability Notes: Other than backup goalkeepers the squad was fully healthy for this match.
- xG – Expected goals (or xG) measures the quality of a chance by calculating the likelihood that it will be scored from a particular position on the pitch during a particular phase of play
- xA – Expected assist (or xA) is directly related to the xG of a shot that the pass creates.
- Post-Shot xG (PSxG) – Post-Shot xG is calculated after the shot has been taken, once it is known that the shot is on-target, taking into account the quality of the shot.
- Progressive Pass – A pass that advances toward the opponent’s goal where the distance between the starting point and the next touch is:
- at least 30 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are within a team’s own half
- at least 15 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in different halves
- at least 10 meters closer to the opponent’s goal if the starting and finishing points are in the opponent’s half
- Progressive Carry – Carries that move the ball toward the opponent’s goal at least 5 yards or any carry into the penalty area. Excludes carries from the defending 40% of the pitch.
- Dribble – Moving past the opposing player while maintaining possession of the ball. When a player shields the ball or otherwise uses physical strength to maintain possession, this is not a dribble.
- Key Pass – A pass that immediately creates a clear goal scoring opportunity for a teammate. A key pass does not have to lead to a shot, and thus is different than a shot-creating action.
- Long Pass – Definition depends on the site being used. Typically, a pass that travels a distance greater than 30 yards.
- Mistouch – When a player fails when trying to gain control of the ball without a defender earning a tackle or a ground duel.
- Ground Duel – A challenge between two players to gain control of the ball, progress with the ball, or change its direction.
- Dispossessed – The times a player loses control of the ball after a tackle from an opponent, not including attempted dribbles.
- Recovery – Any action that ends the possession of the opponent without the ball going out of bounds. Recoveries are typically duels (44%) or interceptions (16%), but can happen without any specific action from the player doing the recovery (positioning himself correctly or simply collecting the ball).